How Cover-More Group shrank its IT estate while responding to Covid-19

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How Cover-More Group shrank its IT estate while responding to Covid-19

Podcast: CIO discusses travel insurer's global consolidation.

Travel insurer Cover-More Group cut 15 percent of its enterprise application portfolio as part of a global consolation of its IT operations at the height of the pandemic.

The ASX-listed company – which operates in 22 countries – juggled the project, which is ongoing, while putting out spot fires during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of the travel industry.

Speaking as part of the CXO Challenge services on The iTnews Podcast, global chief information officer Nicki Doble said the standardisation aimed to consolidate systems across the global brand.

“The business was operating in lots of different countries, [under] lots of different brands, and they wanted that to continue because they had brand recognition, but they needed the backend system to work as a 'global brand', so I was brought in to do that tech strategy," Doble said.

Upon her arrival in March 2019, Doble – who joined from QBE Insurance – decided on an “organic bottom-up” approach, after briefly considering a top-down strategy.

“Once I saw the diversification in the regions - the different maturities, the different ways the business had been merged - it was really obvious I needed to take another approach,” she said.

“Ultimately, I think [that] saved us a lot when Covid hit because it just gave us visibility and a very clear roadmap that I wouldn’t have had [otherwise].”

Borrowing from agile and lean methodologies, the company also undercut the cost of the strategy.

“There's some 'no regrets' decisions, particularly around security… or around our CMS… that the business didn’t need a presentation to know that we had to address,” she said.

“So the money that we would have necessarily spent on enterprise architecture, we were funnelling that away to do some of the remediation or some of the strategic work earlier.

“Things were running concurrently, or in parallel to achieve that result, which again addressed some of those initial things very early like security.

“But it also meant that we were further down the strategy path than what we would have been if we’d taken a more waterfall approach.”

From 14 to seven CRM systems

To identify just how many applications existed globally, Doble said a cloud planning migration tool was repurposed to scan the company’s network, revealing an eye-opening number.

“We had 591 applications globally, so for a company of our size, that’s an enormous amount of applications,” she said.

“And in some applications there were multiple instances: I had 13 customer relationship management (CRM) systems.”

Since that time, the company has reduced the application estate by about 15 percent, including almost half of global CRM systems and a number of 'pet projects' that were uncovered along the way.

“I’m down now to around about seven CRMs globally. We’ll probably get to around about four,” she said, adding that there was no ambition to have one global CRM.

The rationalisation was also directly responsible for saving $7 million in just a couple of months, which Doble said “equate[ed] to [retaining] jobs” during the height of the pandemic.

Alongside rationalisation, Cover-More has also been focus on getting ready for the resumption of international travel.

The company’s cloud migration, for instance, was an area that “sped up” during Covid-19, while the API library got a “massive steroid injection”.

Amazon Connect

Alongside the rationalisation, the company was also faced with an 80 percent increase in call volumes on the claims side of the business during the height of the pandemic last year.

Doble said that businesses receiving travel insurance and medical assistance from Cover-More - the likes of Flight Centre, Virgin Australia, Medibank and Australia Post - were all calling into the same PABX system.

“We were very nervous that… if claim volumes got too high, we were at risk that medical assistance calls wouldn’t be able to get through. They need to be answered in 20 seconds,” she said.

“So we ended up moving in a course of four days our claims call centre out to Amazon Connect with a really complicated IVR [interactive voice response].

“That was really good because we… knew we couldn’t go and buy something big and expensive because we knew in two months’ time we were going to be cutting back costs.

“Cloud solutions were very good because they gave us the ability to scale to meet the demand that we needed to at the time, and then when the business tapered off, we were able to then bring that back in and move to a global solution."

Travel in a post-Covid world

Looking ahead, Cover-More is now focused on “what travel will look like" after the pandemic, with attitudes towards travel insurance likely to change in the wake of Covid-19.

“Insurance in general is treated like a grudge purchase, so I think it will be really interesting to look at it differently because people’s attitudes will change when they come back,” Doble said.

“But I think we're moving very heavily into product management frameworks, similar to the tech companies, and trying to think more like tech companies.

“And that will change what policies to sell or how we sell out to our customer."

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